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People think that in the novel The Wizard of Oz there's a hidden story that alludes to what happened in the U.S. political scene in the 1890s. How do you refer to a hidden story? Do you call it an 'allegory'? Is there another word for it? I often hear 'metanarrative', but it seems to refer to something else. What are other similar terms and what are the differences that distinguish them?

I need to know the differences as a writer. It can become useful later on as I try to tackle harder challenges in the future.

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    Just to clear things up: you're asking specifically about elements of a story that allude to real-world events? – F1Krazy Feb 3 at 15:54
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    Not necessarily real-world events, it can allude to a fictional or mythical story. – repomonster Feb 3 at 16:05
  • maybe… Subtext? – wetcircuit Feb 3 at 17:31
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Allegories and metanarratives are slightly similar in the way that they reveal things other than the main plot line, but are widely different. They are defined as:

Allegory - a story, poem, or picture that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning, typically a moral or political one. (Google)

Metanarrative (also called grand narrative) - an overarching story or storyline that gives context, meaning, and purpose to all of life. (GotQuestions.org)

An allegory is usually political. One of the most notable and obvious is Animal Farm by George Orwell, an allegory for the Russian Revolution. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding contains social, moral, and religious allegories inspired by the author's experiences in WWII. If you're looking to tell a story about politics, society, or morals, an allegory is what you're after.

A metanarrative is more philosophical and/or religious. The Bible is a metanarrative, giving meaning to all life, as are many religions and religious teachings. If your story is digging into the purpose of humanity or any grand question of our existence, you would refer to it as a metanarrative.

Another similar term is a parable, a story used to teach a moral or spiritual lesson, like Aesop's Fables, and of course, metaphors, similes, and symbols are more one-dimensional terms.

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